New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) has announced that, since the labour shortage declaration made on 5 April, around 250 people have successfully applied to vary the conditions of their visitor visas to work in the labour shortage declaration in the Bay of Plenty and the extension in Hawkes Bay.
According to NZKGI, the number is expected to increase sharply over this week.
In 2018, around 230 people successfully applied for a VOC in the Bay of Plenty over the declaration period.
This week marks the beginning of the peak of harvest for the kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty, with more than 18,000 seasonal required to pick and pack the kiwifruit. The peak is expected to last until the end of May.
"While we are pleased our attraction campaign has increased the number of visitors who have shown interest to work in the kiwifruit industry, we are likely to require more workers to pick and pack at season peak," noted NZKGI chef executive Nikki Johnson. “As a first priority, we are calling on people who live in close proximity to orchards and packhouses to roll up their sleeves and join us in this booming industry.”
Current estimates put the potential labour shortfall at peak around 3,550 for the Bay of Plenty’s kiwifruit industry, compared with a shortfall of 1,200 vacancies at the peak of harvest in 2018.
The shortage places the current workforce under pressure to pick and pack this years’ estimated volume of over 155m trays, with a quarter already picked and packed.